MORAL CONSIDERATIONS IN REVIEWING PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULA
Pennsylvania Catholic Conference


Guidelines for Catholic Board Members, Parents and Teachers in Public Schools

A Pennsylvania Catholic Conference Resource Paper
December, 1995

INTRODUCTION: A WORD TO PARENTS

"In the sphere of education," says our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, "the Church has a specific role to play." The Church is interested in all aspects of education. What our children are taught shapes what they believe — about the world, about themselves, and about God. And these beliefs shape all their actions throughout life.

The good life, which only reaches its total fulfillment in heaven, is the "outcome" we, as Catholics, wish for our children. Like all people, we want our children to grow up to be good citizens and neighbors, happy family members, and productive workers. But we also want our children to become faith-filled disciples of Jesus; this, too, is an "outcome." So the Catholic Church is not against outcome-based education (OBE) as such.

But in a pluralistic society, it is difficult to gain consensus on any precise definition of desired outcomes — what they should be, how stringently they should be enforced, and under what circumstances they might violate an individual's conscience.

It is equally hard to find a method of attaining the desired outcomes — a method that will satisfy people of many faiths and those of no faith. Education, after all, cannot be value-neutral. In the teaching of history, for example, we use a principle of selection, differentiating important events from unimportant ones. In mastering technology, too, we approve some techniques and uses, while we disapprove others.

These are value judgments. They are moral decisions. They cannot be determined "scientifically" in a laboratory or a research library. And so one group's desired outcome is sure to be disputed by another group or by individuals.

The primary and ultimate "outcome" we, as Catholics, wish for our children is that they are faithful to their baptismal dignity as daughters and sons of God. This encompasses everything they will do, and so it encompasses everything they will learn.

We, as a Church, do not expect all citizens to accept this ultimate outcome as their own. But we do expect the state and its schools to respect our right to speak freely of the moral and religious truths of the Catholic faith. We also expect that our children will not be taught as dogma anything that contradicts their religious faith. Our children have a fundamental right to believe and to articulate that belief without fear or coercion.

These expectations, these concerns, belong above all to Catholic parents, who are the first and most important educators of their children.

While education is indeed an intellectual enterprise that strives for the acquisition of knowledge, education is essentially moral, a formation in virtue. It is not enough to inform the child in a vague way of selected facts and multiple options for action. The child's conscience has to be formed. The child needs a certain standard against which to judge all actions as good or evil, right or wrong. He or she must be shown the beauty of virtue and the ugliness of vice. As Catholics, we believe that the Church is the most reliable guide on earth in these matters. Our Catholic children should grow up knowing that, by following the law of God, they will be walking the surest way to a happy life.

"How important children are to Jesus!" John Paul II wrote to the children of the world in 1994. Our Lord Jesus insisted that the child is in need of special protection. In fact, Jesus reserved his most severe condemnation for those who harm little ones (Mt 18:6). So parents must be vigilant against all those influences in society and in current educational practice that would rob the child of innocence and introduce material that is harmful to moral and spiritual development.

A point stated earlier bears repeating: parents are the child's first and most important educators. Larger communities (such as the state or federal government) should not take over the responsibilities of parents and families. What's more, parents should never allow them to take that authority. The role of the parents in education is not a favor granted by secular authority; it is a right and a duty given by God.

[In the pages that follow, all CCC citations refer to numbered articles in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.]

1. COMMUNICATIONS

Goal: Each student shall become proficient in reading, composition, listening, speech, understanding, interpreting, analyzing and synthesizing information.

Every act of communication involves persons. People talk, people listen. Persons, by nature, live and grow in community, relating to one another and, ultimately, to God. Each person has a history and is part of history, living and moving in the light of the ultimate destiny God has for him or her.

As Catholics we believe that all people are created by God as unique and irreplaceable. Our baptismal dignity marks us as the beloved sons and daughters of God. This tremendous dignity must be respected in everything a person communicates, and it should be reflected in every message he or she receives. In expressing their thoughts and learning good skills for communications, children must be taught to be responsible in and for their actions. One prime danger here is a misunderstanding of the notion of freedom.

Some people today use the banner of freedom as a justification to speak or to act as they wish, without constraint. But true freedom is the ability and willingness to choose rightly. Children should learn the values of decency, goodness, and respect for themselves, others, and God. Freedom divorced from responsibility is shallow and meaningless. It is not authentic freedom.

Children should be educated to know that there are abuses of freedom, and that irresponsible communication does hurt people and violate their human dignity. There are many examples in today's world where the gift of good communication has degenerated into empty licentiousness — a life without moral standards.

The spoken or written word, the photographic image, the work of art, and the videotape — every message in all of these media — will either affirm human dignity or deny it. The messages that affirm human dignity simply tell the truth, with charity, respect, and decency.

In their development as good communicators and productive members of society, students should learn more than the basics of reading, writing, and speaking. Knowing the mechanics of good communication means little unless the student also knows what should be communicated and why.

For Catholics, this means that our children possess the special mission to speak the "Good News," to proclaim Jesus Christ and his Gospel message of love by what they say and how they live. There is a great need today for young people to continue being formed in the knowledge of their faith through effective religious education programs. This knowledge can find refined and effective expression in the methods of social communication.

"Communication is more than expression of ideas and the indication of emotion," the Second Vatican Council said. "At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love" (Decree on the Means of Social Communication, 11).

2. MATHEMATICS

Goal: Each student shall become proficient in the use of varied mathematical processes and applications to solve challenging problems and to create new ways of understanding information.

Mathematics is an abstract science, to some degree removed from the world of matter. When we study a triangle, we do so without worrying whether it is made of wood or iron. The fact that our minds have this capacity for abstract thought shows that they are spiritual. Students should realize that our knowledge starts, but does not end, with perceiving reality through the senses.

Mathematics bears witness to the objectivity and unchanging character of truth. However much one might desire it to be otherwise, 2 + 2 will always be 4. St. Thomas Aquinas taught that not even God can make 2 + 2 be anything but 4: He is truth, the source of all truth, and cannot be untrue to himself.

In the Student Learning Outcomes document, mathematics is described in a utilitarian manner (cf., "all students use numbers," Outcome 1). Mention is made of both "theoretical" and "practical" problems, but the emphasis is almost always on the practical. Education in mathematics should not be simply servile or useful; it should instill a sense of the splendor of truth and the desire for knowledge for its own sake.

3. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Goal: Each student shall become proficient in applying the processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation to the solution of challenging scientific problems and in the application and understanding of technology in society.

"Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves, however, they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits" (CCC 2293).

It is true that there can be abuses in the pursuit of science. Some can put excessive confidence in the "scientific method" and to consider as true only that which can be empirically verifiable. This abuse comes from a philosophical error, not from the nature of science itself.

The Church recognizes the freedom of science and technology to use its own principles and its own methods. Nevertheless, the expected outcomes raise some concerns.

Outcome 1

All students explain how scientific principles of chemical, physical and biological phenomena have developed and relate them to real-world situations.

When students make the jump from "scientific principles" and observed "phenomena" to "real-world situations," they will often be jumping as well from the realm of the empirical sciences to the order of the ethical. Sometimes, for example, people will argue that because there is a genetic predisposition to some immoral behavior, that behavior should be permitted and tolerated as "normal." But such an argument falls apart as we learn that some people may have a predisposition to murder and other horrific actions. We do not tolerate or excuse these actions that are destructive to society. Our genes do not give us carte blanche to behave however we wish.

No experiment can show the distinction between right and wrong action. Good and evil, law and love elude every laboratory trial. Empirical science cannot prove or disprove moral or religious truths. Nothing that is true can ever pose a danger to the Catholic faith, because everything that exists has come from the hand of the one God, who created the universe, sustains it, watches over it as a Father, and sets its laws. "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself nor can truth ever contradict truth. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God" (CCC 159).

The leap from observed phenomena to "real-world situations" raises another caution. Because something is technologically possible, it is not necessarily morally permissible. Abortion is an example of a medical procedure that is possible and even legal. Its proponents argue that it serves some alleged "good": choice, freedom, etc. But that does not mitigate the fact that abortion is the killing of an innocent human being and as such is always morally indefensible. As the Church has consistently taught from the beginning, the ends can never justify the means.

In vitro fertilization ("test-tube babies") provides another example of technologically possible activity that is morally wrong. The procedure separates reproduction from its intrinsic connection with human love. Thus, it violates natural law and is wrong. Practitioners of this technique compound the evil by bringing "spare" human embryos — human lives — into existence, only to destroy them when they are no longer needed. The Church condemns such destructive experimentation with human life.

Students must be taught there is no clear path from laboratory to law.

Outcome 3

All students use and master materials, tools and processes of major technologies which are applied in economic and civic life.

Students should not be required to "use and master materials, tools, and processes of major technologies," if the use of those technologies would violate the teachings of faith and the dictates of a student's conscience.

Students must learn that scientific research or experimentation, which becomes possible through advances in learning and knowledge, can never legitimate acts that are in themselves contrary to the moral law and the dignity of the human person.

The tools and processes of abortion, contraception, and some of the tools of war, for example, will always be considered immoral by Catholics. Students must not be required to "use and master" these kinds of technologies which violate the moral law of the Church.

Outcome 4

All students explain the relationships among science, technology and society.

No ethic of the use of technology can be determined by "scientific method." All such values are based on beliefs — about right and wrong, the value and dignity of the human person, the building of a just and good society. Catholic teachings about the relationships of science, technology, and society should be respected and treated at least as valid alternatives. This will surely be relevant to any discussion of medical genetics, fertility, and birth technologies, experimentation on human subjects and technologies of warfare.

Outcome 5

All students construct and evaluate scientific and technological systems using models to explain or predict results.

The sciences should serve all people and the common good. Their "systems" should not reduce human persons by assigning them a factor of usefulness or utility. Each and every person has infinite value, no matter how useful, compliant, or pleasant they are to society. Arbitrary indicators of "quality of life" should never be used to determine an individual's right to opportunity, life, and liberty. When governments try to adopt an ethic of utility as law, they end in persecuting the aged, persons with mental retardation, persons with disabilities, and so on.

Students should be made aware that scientific "systems" and hypotheses sometimes have hidden and destructive political or moral agendas.

Outcome 6

All students develop and apply skills of observation, data collection, analysis, pattern recognition, prediction and scientific reasoning in designing and conducting experiments and solving technological problems.

Human factors should be carefully considered whenever students are asked to apply technology to solve problems. As the catechism states, "It is an illusion to claim moral neutrality in scientific research and its applications" (CCC 2294).

4. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

Goal: Each student shall understand the environment and the student's ecological relationship with it in order to recognize the importance of the quality of life in a healthy and balanced environment.

The story of creation in the book of Genesis shows the profound regard that God had for all the things he created. Genesis very simply states after each one of God's creations that "it was good."

The pinnacle of that creation is the human person — man and woman, made in the image and likeness of God. To demonstrate how exalted their position was in the world order, Genesis states that "Adam," the first man, gave names to all the animals, a sign of the dominion that mankind possesses over other creatures. Dominion, by its very nature, means proper use and not misuse. In light of this, children must learn at an early age that the key perspective that should characterize their relationship to other created beings — living and non-living — is summed up in the word "stewardship."

Each of us is called to be a steward, or caretaker, of the many blessings God has given to us. These gifts have been provided for us by a loving God, and we are meant to use them wisely by placing them at the service of our fellow human beings and the overall common good.

With an understanding of this concept of stewardship, students will appreciate the fact that human dominion over other creatures is not absolute. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, this dominion "is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation" (CCC 2415).

The catechism goes on to delineate certain actions as permissible based on these ideas. For example, it is acceptable to use animals for food and clothing. They may also be domesticated to assist humans in the performance of work and the enjoyment of leisure. Scientific experiments may be performed on animals, provided these experiments are reasonable in their scope and contribute to "caring for or saving human lives" (CCC 2417).

The catechism also provides an insightful observation regarding how human beings should act with regard to animals. "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly. It is likewise unworthy to spend money on them that should as a priority go to the relief of human misery. One can love animals; one should not direct them the affection due only to persons" (CCC 2418).

Students must learn to appreciate the gifts of the environment as well as the responsibility that people have to protect and promote these gifts. Pope John Paul II applauded ecological concerns among other pro-life work in his encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). Some environmental matters need little in the way of further focus or attention, because they are frequently covered by today's media. They include topics such as global warming, recycling, and resource conversation, to name a few.

The same attention, and even more, should be given to the preservation of the human race as the pinnacle of creation by God. Students must come to appreciate the real issues and arguments surrounding topics such as overpopulation, while at the same time respecting the Church's teaching regarding the sanctity of all human life and the difficulties associated with moral decisions that would involve forced sterilization and artificial contraception. Young people should not be made to think that the increase of the human population is a curse or disaster.

Again, from The Gospel of Life: "It is therefore morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization, and abortion in order to regulate births." Pope John Paul II recognizes that such misguided attempts to "save the earth" really end up demolishing society.

The overall danger that can result from this proposed educational goal, therefore, is the emphasis that might be placed on some artificial "quality of life" discussion in a classroom setting that could leave children confused regarding the Church's teaching on the sanctity of all human life, born and unborn. Furthermore, children may be tempted, explicitly or implicitly, to accept a methodology that places more emphasis on things rather than people.

The proper balance, therefore, must be struck in any discussion of matters affecting ecology and the environment. Appreciation and indeed respect for all living things and the many blessings God has given us cannot ignore the prime gift, without which all the others would be impossible: the gift of human life.

5. CITIZENSHIP

Goal: Each student shall understand local, State and United States history, geography, systems of government and economics and their relationship to the history, geography, systems of government and economics of other countries in the world and shall acquire and have opportunities to practice, in the school and in the community, the skills necessary for active participation in civic life.

By our nature, we are social beings. Community with others helps us to secure basic goods, knowledge, and life itself. Each of our lives is deeply affected by society; each one of us has a duty to share in the task of shaping and conserving a just and humane social order.

The social teaching of the Church rests on two principles: (1) we cannot find fulfillment unless we have some community with others, community in which we serve and are served; and (2) we cannot find fulfillment without making our own deep personal commitment to the God who created us.

Students must learn the duties that all Christians have to their community and to society as a whole, but a duty that is guided always by the Gospel teaching. One of the most serious errors of our time is the chasm that has widened between the faith which is professed and the practice of one's daily life.

Students are to be taught that each person's active involvement in the community is a good to be pursued and perfected. The great commandment "to love your neighbor as yourself" requires that we promote the true common good, create a more just and compassionate society, and work together in solidarity with others. Eternal life begins in this world.

Outcome 1

All students demonstrate an understanding of major events, cultures, groups and individuals in the historical development of Pennsylvania, the United States and other nations, and describe themes and patterns of historical development.

Parents should encourage students to learn history well and impartially. In studying history, students should find the Catholic faith fairly and accurately portrayed. One needs to be cautious of any textbook or curriculum that portrays religion, and particularly the Catholic faith, as a perennial force for persecution and injustice. As Mark Twain said, an idea is not responsible for the people who claim to follow it. Christians, at times, have failed to live up to the Gospel demands. This does not negate Christianity or its influence in the historical development of our world.

In learning about missionary activity, for example, do the students learn about the compassionate works of the great missionaries? Or do lessons dwell exclusively on persecutions by conquistadors who were only nominally Catholic? Most Christian missionaries actively sought the personal welfare of native peoples — even as they sought their conversion. The missionaries' care included medical help, shelter, food, education, legal defense, and social organization.

The same criterion of fairness applies to accounts of world-historical events. If churchmen are shown as "persecuting" Galileo, it should also be noted that the empirical sciences arose and thrived in Western Catholic culture, especially around the great monasteries. The father of genetics, Gregor Mendel, was a monk. Louis Pasteur was a layman of profound faith.

Catholic students should also know that the Church, often alone, defended women in cultures that denigrated women. The Church law that sought to prevent Henry VIII from abandoning his wife also kept men generally from deserting their families. Students should know that the church was for centuries the only place where women could receive an education. Many of the great reformers and heroes in world history were women of the Catholic faith: Joan of Arc, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Therese of Lisieux, and certainly Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Dorothy Day in our own times. Much has been spoken, in our own day, by John Paul II concerning the dignity of women (cf., Mulieris Dignitatem, Letter to Women).

Students should be aware, when studying American history, that most of the founders of this country believed in God and that this belief was the basis for most of their tenets with regard to the social order. The country's founders believed that all people are "endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." They believed in the natural law, and they esteemed the Ten Commandments and the Gospel.

Catholics have played pivotal roles in the history of Pennsylvania from the Commonwealth's earliest days. Just as students learn the impact of the Amish and Quakers on Pennsylvania's history, so they should be made aware of the many contributions by Catholics. Catholic immigrants from Germany and England settled early in the area of south-central Pennsylvania because of its proximity to Maryland, which historically was a place of refuge for Catholics. In many other colonies, Catholics were denied the ability to publicly practice their faith. Students should be aware of the acts of violence, discrimination, and bigotry faced by Catholics in our own Commonwealth (e.g., the Know-Nothing Party, which was fiercely anti-Catholic). Catholic contributions to the good of the Commonwealth and the nation should not be overlooked or forgotten (e.g., America's Catholic School system saw much of its development through the efforts of Bishop John Neumann of Philadelphia).

Outcome 3

All students describe the development and operations of economic, political, legal and governmental systems in the United States, assess their own relationships to those systems and compare them to those in other nations.

In studying the idea of the "separation of church and state," students should learn that this doctrine was proposed by Thomas Jefferson more to protect religion from governmental interference than vice versa. They should also learn that the Constitution protects the free exercise of religion, even as it disallows the establishment of a state-sponsored religion or church.

The separation of church and state in no way implies a separation of law from morality. Some people claim that you cannot "legislate morality." This overlooks the important fact that every law makes a moral claim, forbidding some action or requiring another. In business law, medical law, rights law, and even traffic law, the subject remains the same: the mandate of right action over wrong action. This is morality, and its justification is based on what has come to be known as the "natural law."

Students should learn that governments have a right to command. The Church teaches that, when legitimate public authority is exercised within the limits of the moral order and on behalf of the common good, citizens "are conscience bound to obey" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 74). This moral obligation can extend even to laws which might reasonably have been different (speed limits, tax rates), but which nonetheless are related to the needs of the common good and established in good faith. "Obedience to just laws" and "reverence for legitimately constituted authorities" are part of the Christian faith.

Students need to learn, however, that God does not command immoral actions. Moral evils do not become justified because civil law permits or demands them of its citizens. If civil authorities issue laws which are contrary to the moral order, and therefore against the will of God, Pope John XXIII wrote, "these cannot be binding on the consciences of the citizens, since one must obey God" (Pacem in Terris).

Outcome 4

All students examine and evaluate problems facing citizens in their communities, State, nation and world by incorporating concepts and methods of inquiry of the various social sciences.

Students should learn caution in the use of the social sciences to formulate public policy. The social sciences are not pure empirical sciences as are biology or chemistry, for example. Students should be aware that social sciences are sometimes dependent on notions derived from philosophical and political theory. Students should learn to question what is the idea of the "good life" toward which the social scientists are aiming. Is it a society that is just to all citizens, from womb to tomb? Or does it reduce the personhood of those who are less "useful" to society — people who are aged, disabled, mentally ill, or unborn?

Students should learn that the "common good" consists chiefly in the protection of the rights and the performance of the duties of the human person. Students should understand that good laws and policies are not based on survey data or the majority opinion, but rather on the ideas of justice and morality — values that form an integral part of the Church's teaching. These values come from the natural law itself and are clearly stated in the country's founding documents.

Outcome 5

All students develop and defend a position on current issues confronting the United States and other nations, conducting research, analyzing alternatives, organizing evidence and arguments, and making oral presentation.

Students should be expected to evaluate and judge an argument based on its merits and not to dismiss any argument because it is associated with a certain religious perspective.

Outcome 6

All students explain basic economic concepts and the development and operation of economic systems in the United States and other nations, and make informed decisions about economic issues.

Economic activity and production should serve the common good. Their fundamental purpose is "the service of man and indeed of the whole man, viewed in terms of his material needs and the demands of his intellectual, moral, spiritual, and religious life; and when we say man, we mean every man whatsoever," said the Second Vatican Council (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 64).

Students should be expected to understand that prior to our natural right to own private property or accumulate economic security is the right of every person to have a share of material goods for needed subsistence. As Vatican II said, "God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of all human beings and all peoples. Therefore, created goods ought equitably to flow to all, with justice as the guide, accompanied by charity" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 69).

Students should learn that all members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable. Society as a whole has the moral responsibility to enhance human dignity and to protect human rights.

Outcome 9

All students demonstrate an understanding of the history and the nature of prejudice and relate their knowledge to current issues facing communities, the United States and other nations.

Students should be expected to understand that bigotry is wrong. It is wrong to discriminate against people because of race, gender, socio-economic class, disability, or religion. All people are worthy of love and respect because they are created in the image and likeness of God.

Students should learn the value of respecting all people while not approving every action or choice of lifestyle. Many actions are immoral, even though they are legal. Many lifestyles are destructive, even though they are widely approved in our society. As Catholics, we are called sometimes to be counter-cultural, to be intolerant of immorality, and to correct those who are wrong or mistaken in moral matters.

6. ARTS AND HUMANITIES

Goal: Each student shall understand and appreciate the breadth of human accomplishment through the arts and humanities and shall have opportunities to practice creativity of thought and action and to demonstrate talent in the arts.

Created in the image of God, people express the truth of their relationship with God by the beauty of artistic works. To the extent that it is inspired by truth, art bears a certain likeness to God's activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of the human person.

In his Letter to Families, the Holy Father shows how the Incarnation of the Son of God has been "the source of a new beauty in the history of humanity and has inspired countless masterpieces of art." He criticizes the debased art forms of "a society which is sick." He is pointing parents and children to those great works of art that are rooted in truth and goodness and warning them of those productions of the media which "create profound distortions in man."

Nowhere does the Student Learning Outcomes document speak of the beauty of art. It separates the arts and humanities from truth and goodness, as if they were meant to express only feeling and opinion. Students are simply encouraged to "describe the meanings" they find in the works of art they study, produce, or perform. There is no suggestion that there may be books, paintings, and music which are morally disordered and therefore harmful. Our children have the right to be introduced to the great classics of art, music, and literature that have been inspired by the Judaeo-Christian tradition. They have the right also to refuse to participate in assignments involving "artworks" that offend against religion or morality.

7. CAREER EDUCATION AND WORK

Goal: Each student shall explore varied career options and develop the skills and work habits needed to be a productive, contributing member of society and the understanding that lifelong learning is necessary to maintain those behaviors, skills and attitudes.

Schools do not exist just to qualify young people for "useful" employment. Education is not training. Work is for the human person, not the human person for work. Utilitarian considerations inevitably encourage a thing-centered and self-centered mentality.

There can be no substitute for a "liberal" education, one that frees the young person for the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty and the cultivation of virtue. The school is meant to build up the "civilization of love," not the "civilization of use." The best citizens of such a civilization will demonstrate the virtues the Church has taught from the beginning: faith, hope and love (the theological virtues) and prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude (the cardinal virtues). Authentic education leads one to become a virtuous citizen.

When it speaks of careers, the Student Learning Outcomes document places most of its emphasis on enabling the student to obtain and stay in a job. There is a vague reference to "the multiple purposes of work," but there is no explicit mention of work that would take the form of service. Catholic parents will remind their children of the need to ask God to show them how he wants them to serve him, whether in the ministerial priesthood, in religious life, in Christian marriage, or in the single lay state. The Catholic speaks not just of "career" and "work," but also of "vocation" and "service."

8. WELLNESS AND FITNESS

Goal: Each student shall acquire and use the knowledge and skills necessary to promote individual and family health and wellness.

Every human person has been created in the image and likeness of God. "Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity," said the Second Vatican Council. "Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of this material world. Through him they are then brought to their highest perfection" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 14). In striving to achieve our human destiny, we must care diligently for our whole selves, body and soul, so as to fulfill our human vocation.

Outcome 3

All students demonstrate their knowledge of the benefits associated with physical fitness and good personal health habits including health promotion and disease prevention.

Of particular concern here is the area of human sexuality. It is imperative that students learn that sexuality is a precious, holy, and good gift from a loving God as part of the created order. "God created man in his own image . . . male and female he created them" (CCC 2331). In the very act of creation God made two sexes that were different and yet complementary. "Every man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out" (CCC 2333).

Students should learn that sexuality "affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others" (CCC 2332). Sexuality is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person. "It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death" (CCC 2361).

Sexuality is intrinsically ordered to marriage, the goods of marriage, and the flourishing of family life. Sex belongs, by the created plan of God, only in marriage between a husband and wife who are totally committed to one another in love. "In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and a pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament" (CCC 2360). Marriage calls for a total giving of oneself to one's partner, in body as in other ways. Sexual intercourse represents and expresses the mutual gift of self. Thus, any sexual activity is deformed if separated from this mutual self-giving.

Catholics believe that the family is the foundation of society, "the original cell of social life" (CCC 2207). Human sexuality finds its natural and good expression in faithful, monogamous marriage. The act of sexual intercourse is a great good which was created by God both to unite a man and woman and to bring children into the world. Sexuality is both unitive and procreative. "The two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of family life" (CCC 2363).

Young people should be helped to love the beauty of marriage, family life, and chastity, and to detest the perversions which deform that beauty: fornication, contraception, sexual promiscuity, masturbation, licentiousness, lustful desires, incest, homosexual acts, pornography, and prostitution. Any activity that violates God's plan for the flourishing of his creatures is futile and self-destructive, leading only to unhappiness.

Students should learn that chastity means "the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being" (CCC 2337). Students should recognize the need to develop a chaste lifestyle through self-discipline, hard work, and prayer. "Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort" (CCC 2345). Students should recognize that many in the world will tell them that they are unable to control their biological drives and desires, that they are "animals," that they are simply unable to save sex for marriage. The reverse is true. With the grace of God, each person has the capacity to govern passions and find inner peace; with grace, he or she need not be a slave to those passions. This holds true even in marriage where spouses, in living out the marriage covenant, are never to treat the other as an object.

The Church has always condemned the use of artificial means of birth control. Those who use birth control are using sexuality in a way that violates its divinely created power, meaning, and purpose. Artificial birth control has always been associated with human selfishness and a failure to realize how important and sacred a reality the gift of human married love really is. There are, however, serious and unselfish reasons when it would not be wise for some people to have more children at certain times. The couple then may use natural family planning (NFP). NFP is a method for pinpointing the fertile time in a woman's cycle, so that the man and woman can avoid sexual intercourse during that time. This is essentially different from contraception. Contraceptive birth control is abuse of a gift; NFP is merely periodic non-use of a gift.

Students should know that some people — perhaps even their teachers — will try to tell them that there is way to have "safe sex" or "protected sex." That is simply a lie. There is no such thing as reliable "disease prevention" with regard to sexuality. Every day, people who practice "safe" sex contract sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The use of condoms, for example, is scant protection against STDs. The only safe sex is sex within the marriage covenant between committed spouses in a monogamous relationship. Outside of marriage, students should learn to embrace a life of abstinence and chastity.

Students need to be made aware of other emotional and spiritual consequences of sexual activity outside of marriage. These consequences can be every bit as devastating as physical disease. As a number of recent studies have shown, "sex education works best when it combines clear messages about behavior with strong moral and logistical support for the behavior sought . . . its goal is to help boys and girls resist pressures to engage in sex prior to marriage" ("The Failure of Sex Education," Atlantic Monthly, October 1994).

Modesty is an essential safeguard to chastity. Forms of dress, entertainment, conversation, reading materials, and other external things can have a strong influence in shaping one's attitude and behavior in sexual matters. Students should recognize the impact that these choices have on their sexual feelings and practices. While specific standards of modesty will vary, students should be taught to govern one's conduct in all of these areas in an intelligent, reflective way.

In learning about the nature of human sexuality, students need to see its intrinsic connection to the family and family life. The importance of the family for the life and well-being of society can never be underestimated. It is not true, as some today maintain that every alternative lifestyle and "family" arrangement (homosexual unions, for example) are equal in status. In the words of the Second Vatican Council: it is a grave duty of society and our educational institutions "to acknowledge the true nature of marriage and the family, to protect and foster them, to safeguard public morality and to promote domestic prosperity" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 52).

Students should understand that the breakdown of the moral order of sexuality leads to the breakdown and destruction of family life. This has severe consequences not only for individuals and families personally, but also for society as a whole.

9. HOME ECONOMICS

Goal: Each student shall understand and apply principles of money management, consumer behavior and child health to provide for personal and family needs.

Students should learn that resources and material goods are gifts meant to make living possible, especially family life, and are meant to be shared with those in need. This can be a difficult lesson for many students to learn. Some may need more social awareness of the poor and needy, while others may need a broader and more hopeful perspective regarding money and its positive uses.

The Church offers this insight: "The development of economic activity and growth in production are meant to provide for the needs of human beings. Economic life is not meant solely to multiply goods produced and increase profit or power; it is ordered first of all to the service of persons, of the whole man, and of the entire human community" (CCC 2426).

In supporting family and community life, material goods serve great and noble purposes. Still, people can come to view material possessions as ends in themselves, rather than as means to the end of adequate living. Consumerism, covetousness, and greed are contemporary attitudes that encourage violations of God's Commandments. These can take hold of persons at very young ages and threaten to destroy the loving attitude that they should have toward all, especially those most in need.

Children must be taught the danger of being owned or judged by one's possessions. God must always have the first place in our lives. The seventh commandment enjoins the practice of justice and charity in the administration of earthly goods. These goods must be viewed as destined for the whole human race; the right to private property does not abolish the duty of generosity and care. The more ways we can develop for children to realize this basic teaching, the better will society and its citizens be served.

Used with permission of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference

 

Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210
www.ewtn.com